WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has nearly announced he’s running for re-election, but the main questions about the 2024 campaign remain unresolved: Who will manage it? Where will it be based? When will he finally make it official?
Advisers have long said he planned to wait until after March, when the first fundraising period of the year ends. That was an effort to help manage expectations as many donors who gave generously to Democratic causes during last fall’s elections were looking for a break.
But an announcement isn’t forthcoming even now, aides insist, and probably won’t come until at least after Biden returns from an expected trip to Ireland in mid-April.
Working on his own timeline could combat Biden’s low approval ratings and questions about his age — the 80-year-old would turn 86 before the end of his second term. It also means that Biden will not be in a hurry to push from former President Donald Trump, who has already announced his 2024 campaign, or from top Republicans who may enter the race, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former Vice President Mike Pence.
“He deserves to make the timetable,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist in Washington. “The longer he can keep this thing focused on his White House duties, and less campaign back and forth, the better off he’ll be.”
That said, Biden aides are wary of Trump being indicted for his role in a hush money payment to a porn actress, and they say Biden will try to time his announcement to a point where he won’t be sharing the political spotlight with the. a man he won in the 2020 election.
Biden’s inner political circle is ready to begin executing the campaign’s strategy from Day One and sees no downsides to the president taking his time. Biden faces no significant Democratic challenger for the nomination. Self-help guru Marianne Williamson is the only contender at this point in the primary race.
It will also be up to Biden to decide where next year’s Democratic National Convention will be held among the final three cities, Atlanta, Chicago and New York. But with the logistical groundwork largely laid, there is little pressure on that decision until the president is ready to make it, organizers say.
Much of the re-election effort will run from the White House, where Biden’s most senior advisers are expected to remain. Still, the campaign manager and top team will be responsible for raising large sums of money, reaching millions of voters and making a case for Biden at the doorsteps of Americans and online while he remains in control.
One top Biden adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an as-yet-unannounced runoff campaign, noted that Biden’s 2020 bid was a $1.7 billion operation and that the effort would be bigger this time around. The consultant said finding “pickers,” or non-Washington voices who can spread the campaign’s message at a time when many people have lost faith in all things political, will be critical.
Aides and allies are discussing how to build the proper infrastructure for the 2024 race. The circumstances are different from 2020 for Biden, whose race was then held while the country was largely shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The political environment is also different, as technological and cultural changes continue to change the way people communicate. Biden’s advisers are currently preparing a new campaign model suitable for activating his base and identifying and attracting the motivational center – essentially a customized communication strategy for each target voter.
Abba Blankson, chief marketing and communications officer for the NAACP, said his organization is non-partisan but successfully mobilized Black voters – an important part of Biden’s base – before last November’s elections using political messages aimed at the same way. This included text messages, radio announcements and door knocking to promote “peer-to-peer” organizing in areas where crucial races could be swung.
“I think his time is his time,” Bankson said. “But, for us, it’s a reality every year.”
Biden’s choice of campaign headquarters has been narrowed to Philadelphia, the 2020 site, and Wilmington, Delaware, where his home is and where the president spends many weekends away from the White House. While Biden prefers Delaware on all counts, some top Democrats worry it will be difficult to recruit top campaign talent to Wilmington.
The Biden adviser described the importance of choosing between the two immediately. And Biden waited until weeks after the start of his 2020 campaign to announce that he had settled on Philadelphia, committing to an important battleground state.
More challenging is filling the position of campaign manager. Some potential candidates see it as a thankless task, with so much of the decision-making limited to the White House, although the adviser said that whoever is chosen in 2024 will have the power to have wide latitude.
Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s 2020 campaign manager, is now White House deputy chief of staff and plans to stay on. Many potential candidates have expressed interest in the campaign manager job, but those on the short list include Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and deputy campaign manager of the 2020 Biden campaign, and Sam Cornale , executive director of the National Democratic Committee.
Quentin Fulks, campaign manager for Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection victory last fall, has mentioned.
Biden led Democrats to a stronger-than-expected midterm performance in 2022 by urging voters to reject the “extremists” of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. So there is a chance that an outsider who ran successful Democratic campaigns last fall would be brought in. But party leaders admit that breaking into Biden’s famous inner circle has been challenging at times.
An exception is O’Malley Dillon, who entered Biden’s orbit in late 2020 following the presidential bid of former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke.
Trump has not named a campaign manager despite announcing his candidacy months ago. But others are not waiting to team up.
Republican Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, has tapped Betsy Ankney, executive director of Haley’s Stand for America political action committee, to manage her presidential campaign. The super PAC associated with DeSantis brought former Trump aide Matt Wolking and strategist Jeff Roe, the architect of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign and Republican Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign for Virginia governor in 2021.
Even with the unanswered questions about his campaign structure, the outline of Biden’s pitch to voters is taking shape.
From February’s State of the Union address to speeches to donors, the president has begun making the case that Americans should let him “finish the job” he started. He has also tried to frame the race as a choice between himself and “MAGA Republicans” who he believes will undermine the nation’s core values.
Biden has spent recent months traveling to promote what he sees as his administration’s key policy achievements, including a bipartisan public works package, and is planning more of the same in the future. That would allow him to use this year to test political messages that might work best in 2024, aides said.
“He’s not going to win re-election or lose re-election based on what happens in his campaign,” Bannon predicted. “He’s going to win it based on his performance as president and the performance of his opponent, whoever it is.”